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George H.W. Bush camp answers allegations, saying he 'patted women's rears in ... a good-natured manner'

George H.W. Bush camp answers allegations, saying he 'patted women's rears in ... a good-natured manner'
Former President George H.W. Bush at a basketball game in Houston in 2016. (David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Former President George H.W. Bush apologized Wednesday in a statement in which his representatives said "he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner."

The admission came after actress Heather Lind, in a now-deleted Instagram post, said that four years ago the 41st president had touched her "from behind" while she posed for a photo with him. She joins other prominent women who have come forward in recent weeks to accuse prominent men of sexual assault and harassment.

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"He didn't shake my hand. He touched me from behind from his wheelchair with his wife Barbara Bush by his side. He told me a dirty joke. And then, all the while being photographed, touched me again," Lind reportedly wrote in her post. (A photo of the encounter can be seen here.) "Barbara rolled her eyes as if to say 'not again'. His security guard told me I shouldn't have stood next to him for the photo."

In a statement, Bush's camp put its own spin on the interaction and said that it was not an isolated incident:

"At age 93, President Bush has been confined to a wheelchair for roughly five years, so his arm falls on the lower waist of people with whom he takes pictures," the statement said. "To try to put people at ease, the president routinely tells the same joke — and on occasion, he has patted women's rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner. Some have seen it as innocent; others clearly view it as inappropriate. To anyone he has offended, President Bush apologizes most sincerely."

Lind, who described the encounter as sexual assault, met Bush while promoting her AMC TV show, "Turn: Washington's Spies."

"My fellow cast-mates and producers helped me that day and continue to support me," Lind wrote, using the hashtag "#metoo," which women have used to share their experiences with sexual harassment and assault. "I am grateful for the bravery of other women who have spoken up and written about their experiences."

It is unclear why her post was deleted.

A second actress, Jordana Grolnick, told the sports news site Deadspin that the former president had also touched her inappropriately her during a photo and told a joke.

"He reached his right hand around to my behind, and as we smiled for the photo he asked the group, 'Do you want to know who my favorite magician is?'" she said. "As I felt his hand dig into my flesh, he said, 'David Cop-a-Feel!'"

Matt Pearce is a national reporter for The Times. Follow him on Twitter at @mattdpearce.

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